It’s no secret that parents are struggling right now as we approach the 1-year anniversary of the COVID-19 quarantine and associated restrictions. This is especially true for single parents. Managing your job, childcare, homeschool and being responsible for caring for your children all day every day takes a toll.
You’ve heard this before, especially as a single parent: it’s important that you put on your oxygen mask first so you can best care for others, and there are tips and tricks you can try to help manage some of the stressors you may be currently experiencing. Now is the time to really take this to heart.
Remember the basics
We are busy balancing remote school and work, plus all the care and feeding of our children as we spend more time at home than ever before. It can be easy to forget some of the basics of parenting that just make life a little easier. If things are feeling “off” or maybe you just need a fresh start, it might be a good time to remember the basics.
Routines: Having a routine to your child’s day doesn’t mean that you have to micromanage their entire day, penciling in fun activities every hour just to keep your child entertained. Making a routine is more about having a predictable schedule that your child can count on and feel comforted by. When they can know and expect what is next in their day, they feel safe.
To get started, make a nighttime routine for you and your kiddos. Do what works for your family—factoring in work schedules, extracurriculars, bedtimes, etc. Generally, dinner, followed by bath, teeth brushing, story, and lights out works well for many families with young children. Whatever your routine, your child will feel comforted by knowing what comes next.
Set Limits: Children of all ages need limits. Toddlers may need limits when it comes to “helping in the kitchen,” while older children may need limits around how much time they are allowed to play video games. As a single parent, setting consistent limits and sticking to them can help you avoid spending too much of your time explaining and re-explaining rules to your child.
Be Consistent: As a single parent, you are the one always saying “OK, just one more story,” or “no, you can’t eat cookies for breakfast.” Whatever limits you need to set, be consistent and follow through. Your child will form needed habits and you can avoid them feeling disappointment and confusion when you are consistent in your rules. Explaining to your child why yesterday there were three bedtime stories, but tonight only one, can cause possible meltdowns, take away quality time with your child, and is also just confusing for them. Try to find rules that you can follow through on both easy and challenging days.
Remember To Have Fun: When you are responsible for all of your child’s discipline and logistics, it can be hard to find time to play together, or just be together. Take even five minutes to look at the clouds together or let your toddler chase you around the table. Remember, that it’s quality over quantity. Meaning, your child will appreciate even just 10 minutes of your undivided attention before you start making dinner. Special time each day for each child, even if it’s only 10 minutes, may make your child more willing to follow the limits you set later. This will build the relationship you have with each other, including trust and respect.
Let It Go: During this busy and challenging time, it’s OK to adjust your expectations and put off “big” projects. Laundry and dishes don’t have to be put away immediately; the attic can be cleaned out later. Your child is the age she is for a very short time. Embrace opportunities for positive interaction over chores sometimes. Let the laundry sit in the basket for a while. Additionally, you will reduce your stress when you don’t expect perfection from yourself.
While there is no perfect way to parent, you can be a perfect parent to your child. There is no better parent for your child than you. Remember that, and the tips above, on those really hard days.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).